Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS Review
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS marks the debut of Nintendo’s flagship fighting franchise on handheld consoles. The objective of the game is the same as ever: beat your opponents to pulp using any means necessary and knock them off the stage. Featuring the series’ largest roster yet, Super Smash Bros. 3DS boasts a number of new and returning modes, as well as an emphasis on online play. But now for the million-dollar question: how does it all hold up on the 3DS?
First off, Smash Bros. on-the-go is inherently amazing. Though the 3DS version may seem like Super Smash Bros. Lite in comparison to its Wii U counterpart, the game features plenty of single and multiplayer content packed within its tiny cartridge. Returning single player modes include Classic mode, where you battle various challengers en route to Master Hand, and All-Star mode, where you fight against the entire roster in chronological order of initial appearance. Also included are Multi-Man Smash, Home Run Derby, Target Smash, and Trophy Run. Unfortunately, all single player modes become repetitive rather quickly, and none have the charm or spontaneity of Brawl’s Subspace Emissary. Even Classic mode, which now features a difficulty slider, branching pathways, and a challenging new final adversary, provides little replay value.
Long live the King Koopa
The 3DS version also includes an exclusive new mode called Smash Run. For five minutes, players are spread out on a huge, interconnected map and tasked with collecting as many stat-boosting power-ups as possible by opening chests or defeating enemies. When time’s up, players’ collected power-ups are added to their overall stats as they compete in a “final challenge,” such as a race or a smash battle. Though an interesting shake-up, Smash Run is too dependent on imprecise 2D platforming to have lasting appeal. Also, for a game in which balance is everything, Smash Run’s focus on stat-altering seems strangely self-defeating. Matches are better enjoyed on a level playing field under more controllable conditions.
Unlike single player, multiplayer is always frenetic and unpredictable thanks to the sheer variety of playable characters, stages, items, and assist trophies. However, Smash Bros. is chaotic enough already on a full-sized television; shrinking the action to a handheld screen isn’t the smoothest transition. Given the level of mayhem, four player matches often feel a little too congested, even on the 3DS XL. Like a mariachi band on the subway, they’re entertaining, but also a little claustrophobic.
In addition to standard local multiplayer, you can test your skills online against random players in one of two modes: “For Fun” and “For Glory.” The former is a basic 2-minute contest between up to four players with all items turned on and all courses available (with the exception of Final Destination). “For Glory,” designed for more competitive, tournament-style play, is essentially the opposite: 1 vs. 1 matches, no items, Final Destination only. So far, my multiplayer experience has been a mixed bag. Though local and friends-only matches have run smoothly, I’ve encountered serious lag during some online four-player matches that renders that game virtually unplayable. For reference, one of my four-player, two-minute matches lasted approximately seven minutes.
You can run, but you can’t hide from online lag.
Fortunately, the rest of Smash Bros. 3DS runs at a consistent 60fps, which is remarkable given the 3DS’ hardware limitations and the nature of Smash gameplay. Further, the game looks much better than I had anticipated; characters have an almost cartoony look to them that sets them apart from their Wii U models. Additionally, the soundtrack, which includes a staggering amount of remixes and rearrangements of classic Nintendo music, is nothing short of phenomenal.
Though Smash Bros. 3DS features plenty of control options, I never felt truly comfortable with any particular setup because of the ergonomics of the 3DS. There’s a reason Smash Bros. fans clamor for the GameCube controller; the game demands precision and speed, both of which are noticeably hindered by the 3DS’ shape, weight, and button layout. Specifically, the Slide Pad doesn’t recognize jerkier movements as quickly or accurately as a standard controller.
Oh, so it is possible to put Samus on the 3DS.
For the first time ever, Smash Bros. allows players to unlock and utilize custom movesets for each character. For players looking to delve even deeper into the game’s fighting mechanics, custom movesets offer plenty of incentive to play the game’s various modes to unlock the full potential of their favorite characters. Completionists have even more reasons to keep playing; the game includes hundreds of trophies from all corners of the Nintendo universe and more than 100 unique challenges to finish.
Ultimately, Smash Bros. 3DS offers the same fun, addictive multiplayer mayhem as prior installments, but issues like confusing menus, uncomfortable controls, and online lag prevent it from escaping the looming shadow of its home console counterpart. Though there’s enough varied content for both veteran players and newcomers to enjoy, Smash Bros. 3DS feels more like an appetizer than a full course meal.
Please note that the final score is not an average